Having arrived at the Emirates as Arsenal’s record transfer, costing £72m, Nicolas Pepe had a point to prove. Could he be the player to help restore the Gunners to glory after some of the darkest days in their history?
The French League is known in Twitter football circles as the Uber Eats League, a takeaway for some of Europe’s biggest clubs. In recent years, many of the Premier League’s most celebrated talents have arrived directly from France.
Eden Hazard, Fabinho, Bernardo Silva are just some of the stars to have hailed from French football, and Pepe joined the exodus last summer after registering 20 plus goals plus 11 assists in his second season at Lille.
Pepe had every top club in Europe vying for his signature. Arsenal were the ones who secured his services with that club record fee. A winger by trade, he can play along the front three and is a constant goal threat.
However, the early stages of his Arsenal career were perceived as being a little underwhelming, given his breakthrough campaign in the previous season. But is that a fair assessment?
Down to the stats
How does Pepe compared to other top wingers in their debut PL season:
Saido Mane: 10 goals, 3 assists
Heung Min Son: 4 goals, 1 assist
Raheem Sterling ( first season at Man City): 6 goals, 2 assists
Riyad Mahrez: 4 goals, 3 assists
Nicolas Pepe: 4 goals, 6 assists (to date)
Even Alexis Sanchez in his first season registered 16 goals and 8 assists in 35 games as a starter. Pepe has been in and out of the side, playing for three different managers whilst still trying to acclimatise himself to the English game. Despite this, he has already become one of the most feared players in the league, with opponents often double-teaming and triple-teaming him.
Known for his ice cool demeanour in defiance of all the haters, Pepe said when asked which Premier League defenders he has struggled against: “Honesty, nobody,” garnering even more hatred from opposing fans.
I love it. A bit of arrogance never hurt anybody, especially when he’s shown it in every game he has played. Even if he’s not scoring or assisting, he is affecting the outcome. The only Arsenal player to get voted man of the match more than once (four times in fact), essentially he has been Arsenal’s best player this season
My only criticism of Pepe’s game is that although he has shown on many occasions that he is Arsenal’s most effective and dangerous weapon with the ball at his feet, he also has a tendency of overplaying. He wants to do too much with the ball and is heavily dependent on his favoured left foot.
Although being new to the league, Pepe has made quite the difference to the way Arsenal play. Manager Mikel Arteta has taken a liking to him and has been won over by his obvious quality.
In a team that is going through a process of rebuilding, the best of Pepe is yet to come. With a bit more fine tuning, he could turn out to be another one of the Premier League’s great players.
Arsenal crest image by cactusbeetroot via Flickr Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC 2.0